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Managers have often defended their lack of activity in the January transfer window by declaring that it is difficult to find value in the middle of the season. This was a line oft-repeated by Arsene Wenger, who was never comfortable with spending money for the sake of it.
Wenger’s successor at Arsenal, Mikel Arteta, is among the Premier League coaches who will no doubt be keen to add to their squads next month should the right opportunity present itself. There is much work for him to do to get the Gunners into the top four despite their 3-1 victory over Chelsea on Sunday.
Liverpool (+110 to win the title) could be in the market for a new center-back, with Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk both out for the season. Manchester United (+900 to finish top) might also try and beef up their defensive options, while Manchester City (+175 to win the league) could seek another attacking option.
At the bottom, Sheffield United (-1000 to go down), Burnley (+175), Fulham (-139) and West Bromwich Albion (-305) will all hope to bring in more quality to add their survival bids. Clubs pushing for Europe will also be on the lookout for players that could help them get over the line.
Wenger and others might point to various January flop as proof that buying the right players in the middle of the campaign is difficult. As a counter-argument, here are five successful winter acquisitions.
Arguably Liverpool’s best striker of the Premier League era, Luis Suarez’s arrival in January 2011 was overshadowed at the time by Andy Carroll’s move to Anfield. The England international was signed on transfer deadline day as Liverpool’s replacement for Fernando Torres, who joined Chelsea in a £50m deal.
Carroll cost £35m from Newcastle United, but just £22.7m was required to prise Suarez away from Ajax. The striker scored four goals in his 13 Premier League appearances in 2010/11, before finding the net 17 times in all competitions in his first full season at the club.
There was controversy along the way, including a biting incident with Branislav Ivanovic and a clash with Patrice Evra in which Suarez was found to have racially abused the Manchester United man.
On the pitch, though, Suarez was sensational. He produced one of the greatest individual campaigns in Premier League history in 2013/14, scoring 31 goals in 33 games as the Reds almost won the title.
The abuse Evra suffered at the hands of Suarez is perhaps the incident he is best remembered for in English football. That is unfortunate, because the Frenchman was a brilliant left-back who was a fixture of Alex Ferguson’s last great team at Manchester United.
Evra arrived to little fanfare in January 2006, joining the Red Devils from Monaco for a fee in the region of £5.5m. It took a while for the full-back to adapt to the pace of the Premier League, but once he was up to speed he became United’s first-choice pick in his favoured position.
Evra remained the club’s leading left-back until the 2013/14 campaign when United finished seventh under David Moyes. That was the only time Evra really experienced failure at Old Trafford. By the end of his United career, he had won five Premier League titles and the Champions League.
Leaving free transfers aside, there has arguably been a no bigger bargain in Premier League history than Everton’s signing of Seamus Coleman in January 2009. The Toffees paid just £60,000 to bring the right-back to Goodison Park. Eleven years on and he is still an important player for the club.
Everton were made aware of Coleman, who was then playing for Sligo Rovers in his native Ireland, thanks to a recommendation from Willie McStay, a former team-mate of David Moyes. The Everton boss liked what he saw and agreed a deal to bring the right-back to Merseyside midway through the 2008/09 season.
Coleman became a regular the following campaign and has now racked up almost 350 appearances for Everton.
Many thought Liverpool had overpaid when they agreed to sign Virgil van Dijk from Southampton for £75m in the January transfer window three years ago. That fee made the Dutchman the most expensive defender of all time, and the jury was still out when he swapped the south coast of England for the northwest.
Looking back now, it looks like Liverpool actually underpaid. Van Dijk has become the world’s best center-back since his transfer to Anfield, where he has proved an utterly transformative figure. The Reds simply would not have won the Champions League and the Premier League without him in their backline.
Klopp may seek a short-term replacement for Van Dijk in January, with the former Celtic stopper sidelined with an anterior cruciate ligament injury. If he does, it will be virtually impossible to find a player in Van Dijk’s class.
Van Dijk will no doubt be remembered as one of the Premier League’s greatest ever center-backs by the time he retires. As well as John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic is another who belongs in that category.
Manchester United paid just £7m to acquire the defender from Spartak Moscow in January 2006. They almost missed out on the Serbia international, who would have joined Fiorentina but for them not having space in their squad for another non-EU player.
Vidic was the embodiment of defensive solidity during his time at Old Trafford. A no-nonsense, physically imposing center-half, he won five Premier League titles and a Champions League before seeking pastures new in 2014.
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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